Minnesota coach Jerry Kill plans to return, but no date is set

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Minnesota coach Jerry Kill is stepping away from his role to focus on better managing his epilepsy, the school announced Thursday afternoon.

The school did not say how much time Kill would miss. Minnesota is off this week and plays at Northwestern on Oct. 19.

Kill, 52, missed last week's game against Michigan after having a seizure at his home that morning.

"This was a difficult decision to make, but the right decision," Kill said in a statement. " ... I look forward to returning to the Minnesota sideline on a full-time basis soon."

Kill has missed parts of four games in three seasons at Minnesota because of seizures, including two this season. Besides missing last week's game, he suffered a seizure on the sideline at halftime of the Sept. 14 Western Illinois game and missed the second half.

Athletic director Norwood Teague, who was hired by the school last year, said the decision for Kill to step away was made Thursday morning.

"It's time for him to stay focused and really zero in on his condition," Teague said at a news conference Thursday afternoon.

Defensive coordinator Tracy Claeys will serve as the acting coach.

While Kill takes medications to help control the seizures, game-day stress is an issue. To that end, the seizures have raised questions about whether Kill can physically handle the job. But Kill's doctors have given him the OK to coach, and as long as Kill and his doctors are in agreement, it's hard to see Kill stepping down or Minnesota buying him out of his contract.

The Epilepsy Foundation says about 2.2 million Americans have the condition, among them U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts, rapper Lil Wayne and former Arizona Cardinals and Pittsburgh Steelers guard Alan Faneca.

Kill had two seizures on the sideline while he coached at Southern Illinois, in 2001 and in '05. The episode in '05 led to the discovery that he had epilepsy. He also collapsed and had a seizure while taping his highlight show in 2006. But he never had missed an entire game until last week. He also had a seizure in 2010, the day after coaching a game for Northern Illinois. Minnesota hired him after the 2010 season.

The '05 seizure also led to tests that revealed Kill had kidney cancer. He had a tumor removed from his kidney in January 2006, and his cancer has been in remission since.

A statement by school president Eric Kaler said, "I eagerly look forward to Coach Kill's return and wish him all the best."

Mike Huguenin can be reached at mike.huguenin@nfl.com. You also can follow him on Twitter @MikeHuguenin.

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